When it comes to disordered eating, we don't often discuss the harmful narratives that can sometimes come with the recovery process. As anorexia survivor Gina Susanna says, we often think that it's okay for people to recover — up to a certain point.
In a post to her Instagram page last week, Susanna discussed the harmful message that eating disorder survivors often learn about recovering — and why we need to let survivors recover, with no exceptions.
"Why do so many people's recovery always come with a BUT... Why do we think it's OK to recover — but only up to a certain point?" she wrote. "Why is it OK to gain weight — but not too much weight? Why do we panic when the scale shows a number we are not prepared for? Why are we OK with our changing bodies — until our clothes don't fit like they used to?"
Susanna runs the website Nourish and Eat, where she has remained open and honest about her process in recovering from anorexia, and is sharing her story in hopes that she can help others to not feel at war with their bodies.
As she pointed out, survivors are often ingrained with the message that "everything is fine — as long as you're thin. Eat as much as you want, as long as you don't gain weight. Cut out exercise — as long as you don't get fat."
"We tell ourselves that recovery is great as long as we're thin, because according to social media, you fail at recovery if you're not still thin by the end of it," she wrote. "These are the ways that diet culture seeps into recovery."
True recovery, she said, happens when survivors fully embrace everything that comes with it — including weight gain, buying new clothes if they have to, and coming to terms with their own biases against being fat.
"We need to let go of those things that hold us back from true recovery," she wrote. "We need to embrace recovery — and our bodies — with NO exceptions."
Recovering from an eating disorder may very well be more uncomfortable than you've anticipated — but your health and well-being are worth fighting for, no matter how your body may look in the end.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, an estimated 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And as the Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders organization reports, while more research needs to be done, an estimated over 60% of those who receive treatment will recover from eating disorders, and 20% will make "partial recoveries," and 20% don't recover even with treatment.
In her message, Susanna also acknowledged how she might play into the ideas perpetuated about recovery.
"You're probably thinking, 'but Gina! Hold up, you're thin AND you're recovered!'" she added. "And yeah — my body's set point is at whatever weight I'm at right now. I don't know what that is because I threw away my scale in 2014. But EVERY BODY IS DIFFERENT, YOUR body is just waiting for you to let it do its thing and THRIVE."
If you are struggling with an eating disorder and are in need of support, please call theNational Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NEDA” to 741741.
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